29. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Nelson Rockefeller, Vice President-Designate
- Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- Visits; 40 Committee; NSC Meeting on Israeli Requests; Preparation for Rabin Visit
[Omitted here is a brief exchange on the President’s schedule.]
Kissinger: I think inviting the cosmonauts to a picnic would be overdoing it a bit. Dobrynin would make a big deal of it, and this is the sort of thing the French put in speeches.
President: I’d kind of like to do it. It wouldn’t be similar to the others.
Kissinger: The problem is not the cosmonauts, it’s Dobrynin.
President: Let Dobrynin come if he wants.
[Dr. Kissinger then described the projected attendance at the NSC meeting on the Middle East.]3
[Omitted here is discussion of publicity on CIA operations, especially in Chile in 1964 and 1970.]
[Kissinger:] At our meeting today I will go into the Israeli arms requests, then CIA will brief, then I will explain the strategy. The CIA will have charts showing the forces the Arabs can bring to bear.[Page 76]
What is it we are trying to do? What are the others trying to do? What are some of the problems?
We want to guarantee the security of Israel, but we want to prevent the coalescence of the Arab states—that would create an unmanageable situation for us. We also want to prevent the resurgence of Soviet influence. We want to prevent an Israeli-Arab war and the consequent confrontation with the Soviet Union. If negotiations stall, or if there is a war, there will be an embargo. That would push Europe over the cliff. The Europeans’ response to the Cyprus business shows their mood. There would be a massive anti-U.S. blow-up. The same will happen in Japan. The Soviet Union has suffered because they operated too cautiously in the past. They were too much in the middle. They won’t be caught doing too little again. That makes an Israeli victory more dangerous than an Israeli defeat. Last time we had a massive airlift and a massive showdown, and we would have lost the ability to present ourselves to the Arabs as a means to a solution.
As for the Israelis, another war would result in world pressure for the ’67 borders. It would be tough for the U.S. alone to resist, and the result would be demoralizing like what was done to Czechoslovakia in ’38.
We have been giving the Arabs the feeling that each of them had something to gain—Egypt immediately; Jordan in the mid-term, and Syria somewhat later. The Syrians know that Israel doesn’t want to move; they also know that the more the others are satisfied the more isolated they will be, so they will work to lump everything together. With massive effort we can head it off. We can defuse the Soviet Union with your Brezhnev meeting.
We are operating at the edge of the margin with the Arabs. We have been stalling. The delivery dates on equipment for Egypt are so late that they are turning to the Soviet Union. The Syrians are restive because they got nothing. Geneva hasn’t met for a year—we held off, because it brings all the Arabs together and it lumps all the demands, and makes the Soviet Union the protector of the Arabs and us of Israel. But we can hold that off only with some Arab help.
Israel has an unbelievable domestic structure and a vicious group of politicians. They have a Jewish community here which vicariously tries all the time to prove its manhood. The same people who were doves on Vietnam are hawks on Israel.
President: I know. I saw it in the House votes.
Kissinger: Israel has to give up some territory. What they get in return is the process, not a specific quid pro quo. Strictly militarily it is unequal; but in the bigger context it is Israel’s salvation.
The Israelis also have to prove it is being raped by us before they can yield. They have developed the strategy to state something for [Page 77] peace which looks very reasonable to Americans. In ’67 they wanted an Arab signature on a piece of paper. Then they wanted a direct negotiation. The only one who dealt directly was Jordan—who has done worse than any others. Now they are talking about wanting a comprehensive settlement. That is unattainable now. But we have gotten the Arabs off our back on the ’67 borders. That is in their interest.
The Israelis figure they can play the President and Vice President against me. It didn’t work before because of Nixon, and they couldn’t get to him. Also we supported them in order to frustrate the Arabs.
President: They think I am closer to the Jewish community.
Kissinger: Yes, and Nelson also. They also count on me basically.
But we can’t risk everything for a suicidal policy—one which would bankrupt them. And no President can easily order another airlift. And while the leadership approved the alert, it was only as long as no American troops were involved.
President: That was made clear.
Kissinger: We were afraid the Soviet Union was going to put its troops in, and we were thinking of paratroopers in the Sinai. We were playing high stakes poker.
President: I don’t think the American people will ever stand for another Vietnam.
Rockefeller: The oil would be impossible in another confrontation.
Kissinger: We might have to take the oil.
Rockefeller: They couldn’t ship it if the Soviet Union didn’t want to.
[Omitted here is further discussion of military assistance to Israel and the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Rabin.]
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 5. Secret; Sensitive. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met with Ford, Rockefeller, and Scowcroft from 9:27 to 10:30 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 439, Miscellany, 1968–76)↩
- On September 7, Ford hosted a reception at the White House and a crab picnic in Alexandria, Virginia, for the Soviet cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts. Dobrynin and his family were invited and attended both events. For his memoir account, see Dobrynin, In Confidence, pp. 325–327.↩
- Brackets in the original. Ford and Kissinger both attended a meeting of the National Security Council that afternoon on military assistance to Israel. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 439, Miscellany, 1968–76, Record of Schedule) No minutes of the meeting have been found.↩